The Bald Eagle Area baseball team is no stranger to close games.
In 2015, the Eagles were in seven games decided by three runs or less. They lost six of those games.
BEA coach Jim Gardner wanted to key in on that issue this offseason, hoping it’d result in more one or two-run victories.
It’s worked so far.
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The Eagles won a tight affair on Thursday, edging Clearfield 5-2 at Doc Etters Field.
With it, BEA (10-5) extended its winning streak to seven games. Of those seven wins, six have been by three runs or less, and four by just one run.
Shortly after fending off Clearfield (5-6), Gardner had a chance to reflect on what’s been clicking.
“Our pitchers are holding these guys down and allowing us to win these games,” Gardner said. “I really wanted that to be a focus this year, winning those close games. The guys have been able to do that for us.”
Thursday was no different, as BEA’s Ryan Guenot had an effective outing. The senior right-hander was the winning pitcher, throwing six innings, striking out six, and allowing only one run and five hits.
Gardner thought Guenot’s fastball hit its spots, while the curveball kept hitters off-balanced.
“When he gets up in the count, he can keep guys guessing,” Gardner said.
Guenot said he felt confident, especially with the curveball making it more difficult for Clearfield to stay on top of his heater.
“They couldn’t really catch up to it,” the senior said.
With Guenot’s pitch count up to 118 through six, Ty Walker entered in the seventh and closed out the evening, facing four hitters and earning the save.
Walker’s pitching style — not submarine, but with enough side action to mess with a hitter’s head — was part of the reason why Gardner put him in.
“He throws the ball at a different angle,” the coach said, “but he’s able to throw a fastball, curveball and changeup at that angle.”
BEA’s pitching staff has undoubtedly carried the load, holding firm in so many one-run contests during this streak.
But on Thursday, the hurlers got some help.
Guenot scored on a first-inning sacrifice fly by Andrew Swabick, the Eagles scored two runs in the second frame on a Tanner Kresovich triple, and they plated another in the third on a throwing error.
In the fifth, Guenot helped give himself some insurance again. He doubled to start the inning, and Jake Gates, who came on as a courtesy runner, later scored on a Trey Butterworth double.
Seeing his teammates back him up at the plate, BEA’s starter was more than happy.
“It’s a lot of pressure off me, and a lot of pressure off our fielders,” Guenot said of the run support. “It just lets us do our work.”
And do their work they did.
The Eagles, who host Bellwood-Antis on Saturday, are rolling right now, and Gardner, thinking about that offseason focus on close games, is proud to see it hold up.
“The kids have gutted it out. They’ve gutted it out,” the coach said. “They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do...and I’m real pleased it’s working out for them.”